Navigating Korea's shopping mecca Dongdaemun
Navigating Korea's shopping mecca Dongdaemun
Looking to do some shopping in Korea, but don't know where to go? Don’t worry, Stripes Korea writer Hyemin Lee is going to take you to the country’s shopping mecca, Dongdaemun. With 32 shopping malls, a vast array of markets, and 30,000 stores in all, you can find whatever you are looking for, including toys for the kids. It’s a happening area and many places are open all night long! And don’t worry, if you’re hungry from all the shopping, the street food here is amazing! So, turn the pages and let Hyemin show you the ropes with helpful tips!
Exploring Dongdaemun Fashion Town
If I had to choose one place to recommend to my foreign friends for shopping, I’d say Dongdaemun.
Dongdaemun, a place where you can see both the traditional and contemporary sides of Korea, is home to the popular Dongdaemun Fashion Town, known as the country’s shopping mecca and the center of fashion.
With 32 shopping malls, a vast array of markets, and 30,000 stores in all, you can find most any kind of fashion item, clothing and souvenir in Fashion Town. It’s a fun, exciting place full of energy that locals and foreigners flock to. And whether you are a night owl or an early bird, you can shop anytime of day or night at this shopping paradise. Seriously, many places open late in the evening till 5 a.m. or later. And don’t worry, there are plenty of restaurants open at all hours and street vendors are everywhere selling their delicious treats.
However, I don’t think many foreigners experience the real value of this area. Many just buy a couple of items at overcharged prices, try some street food and then head home. That’s it. Because the town is so large, it can be overwhelming to come up with a wise shopping trip plan, even for locals like me.
So, I’m going to show you how to enjoy this area, find bargains and set up a shopping itinerary in advance. So, what are you waiting for, keep reading!
- Dongdaemun Fashion Town
- Dongdaemun Tourist Information Center: Ask questions here and pick up a map! (Purple mark on the map below)
Hours: 10 a.m. – 1 a.m. daily
How to get there
By Seoul Metro
Line 1,4 Dongdaemun St. Exit 6-9
Seongdong Technical High School Parking (Brown mark on the map below)
If you don’t mind walking 8 to 10 minutes, I recommend using this parking lot. It’s the cheapest in the area and has plenty of spots. However, if you plan to shop at malls, parking at one can be a better option. Please check the address and fee of each mall in this article.
Cost: 2,400 won an hour
What to bring
- Bring both cash and credit card. Some wholesale shops only accept cash.
- Wear comfortable shoes and carry a backpack if you plan to buy many items.
- Download Kakao Map or Naver Map so you won’t get lost.
Shopping malls vs. markets
Before I tell you where to shop, I’ll quickly break down the differences between malls and markets in the area.
Retail shopping malls (Green marks on the map below)
These are like the shopping malls you find in the States selling items at normal retail prices. They have luxury interiors, brand shops, restaurants, food courts, and big parking lots. The shopping malls often hold fashion shows, music and dance performances in front of them since this district is known as a fashion mecca.
Hours: 10 a.m. – midnight.
Markets (Red marks on the map below)
Dongdaemun Night Market: This market is known as the most important place for fashion in Korea. The dealers here sell products in bulk at wholesale prices to retail vendors from all over Korea and other countries. You can look around and take in the unique scenes of Korea’s fashion industry, but also do some shopping of your own! Many of the dealers sell single items to individuals. Believe me, it’s a fun place to watch people and take in the hustle and bustle of the fashion industry and buy some fashionable clothes for yourself!
Hours: 8 p.m. – 5 a.m. (Sun-Fri)
Wholesale and retail markets: They mostly sell items at wholesale prices to any type of shopper, so it’s a place where you should try to buy items at bargain prices.
Hours: 9 a.m. – 6 p.m. or 8 p.m. – 12 p.m. (Mon-Sat)
RECOMMENDED SHOPPING PLACES
1. Dongdaemun Shopping Complex
This is paradise for those who love crafts and making their own clothes and accessories.
Items: Clothing materials, fabrics, accessories subsidiary materials, cutting supplies, sewing thread, yarn, handicrafts, curtain material, bedding, beads, traditional costumes (hanbok) and more.
Hours: 8:30 a.m. – 7 p.m. (Mon-Fri), 8:30 a.m. – 5 p.m. (Sat)
Address: Line 1,4 Dongdaemun Station Exit 8-9, NAVER
2. Dongdaemun Shoe Wholesale Market
- A dong: All kinds of shoes, from low-priced to high-quality handmade ones for men and women.
- B dong: Shoes for children and woman.
- C dong: Fashionable shoes, mostly for women.
- D dong: Women shoes and pet shops selling fish, birds and rodents.
Hours: 3 a.m. – 2 p.m. (Mon-Fri)
Address: Line 1&4 Dongdaemun Station Exit 7, NAVER
3. Nampyeonghwa Market
Items: All kinds of bags and purses, from low-priced to high-quality ones.
Hours: Midnight – 12 p.m. (Mon-Fri)
Address: Line 1,4 Dongdaemun Station Exit 7, NAVER
4. Jeil Pyeonghwa Market
Items: All types of women’s clothes and fashion items (shoes, bags, accessories and more).
Hours: 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. (Mon-Sat), Night Market: 8 p.m. – 5 a.m. (Sun-Fri)
Address: Line 1,4 Dongdaemun Station Exit 7,NAVER
5. Pyeonghwa Market
Items: Fashion items (scarfs, hats, bags, belts, socks and more), umbrellas, clothes for middle-aged men and women.
Hours: 10 p.m. – 6 p.m. (Sun-Sat), Closed: Saturday night
Address: Line 1,4 Dongdaemun Station Exit 8, NAVER
6. Sinpyeonghwa Fashion Town
Items: Socks, underwear, pajamas, stage costumes, clothes for men and women.
Hours: 9 p.m. – 5 p.m. (Sun-Fri)
Address: Line 1,4 Dongdaemun Station Exit 7,NAVER
7. Dongpyeonghwa Fashion Town
Items: Socks, underwear, pajamas, clothes for men and women.
Hours: Midnight. – 6 p.m. (Mon-Fri)
Address: Line 1,4 Dongdaemun Station Exit 4, NAVER
Most products in this mall are trendy fashion clothes and items for youth. Although this is a shopping mall, Migliore has similar types of shops to wholesale & retail markets, so prices are reasonable and you can try to bargain with store staff.
Items: Trendy fashion items, accessories for youth and casual, fashion clothes for women and men.
Hours: 10:30 a.m. – 2 a.m.
Address: 263, Jangchungdan-ro, Jung-gu, Seoul, https://naver.me/5IFLPgtK
Parking: 3,000 won per hour.
Once you purchase something at a shop, you’ll get a coupon for 30 minutes free parking. You can use a total of 6 coupons (3 hours).
2. Doota Mall
This mall is known for luxury brand stores, designer shops, interesting stores, good restaurants and food court. You’ll be able to check out the latest fashion trends at this mall.
Items: Fashion accessories, casual, fashion and sports clothes, souvenirs and more.
Hours: 10:30 a.m. – midnight (Mon-Sun), Closed: National holidays only
Address: 275 Jangchungdan-ro, Jung-gu, Seoul, https://naver.me/x35mVk1U
Parking: 4,200 won per hour
(2.5 hours of free parking with total purchases over 100,000 won)
3. Dongdaemun Hyundai City Outlet
Like Doota Mall, it also has a lot of brand shops and good restaurants. They sell a lot of brand products at discounted prices and hold many seasonal sale events.
Items: Fashion accessories, casual, fashion, sports clothes and more
Hours: 11 a.m. – 9 p.m. (Mon-Sun), Closed: National holidays only
Address: 20, Jangchungdan-ro 13-gil, Jung-gu, Seoul, NAVER
Parking: An hour is free and a purchase of 10,000 won gives you another hour of free parking.
1. Cheonggye 6-ga Underground Shopping Center
Items: Clothes, shoes, bags, fashion items (hats, watches, accessories).
Hours: 10:20 a.m. – 4:30 p.m., Closed: Last Monday of every month
Address: Line 1,4 Dongdaemun station exit 8, NAVER
2. Dongdaemun Underground Shopping Center
Items: Hanbok, beddings
Hours: 9 a.m. – 6 p.m. Closed: Tuesday
Address: Inside of Line 4 in Dongdaemun Station Exit 8, NAVER
1. Sunday Market
It’s the cheapest wholesale market in the area. There is no official name for this street, so people usually call it Sunday Market, which makes sense because it’s only open on Sundays! Items that weren’t sold at wholesale prices to online malls or indoor markets are sold here. Most items here are extremely affordable, ranging from 1,000 won to 10,000 won! This is a great place for bargain hunters! It’s so much fun shopping here!
Items: Fashion items (hats, accessories, scarf, watches, socks, belts), bags, shoes, pet clothes & toys, clothes for all ages, jackets, coats, vintage clothes, bedding and more.
Hours: 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. (Only Sunday)
Address: Line 1,4 Dongdaemun station exit 7
Tasty street food at Gwangjang Market
Gwangjang Market is one of the largest and most famous in Korea. Located about 10 minutes away from Dongdaemun Fashion Town, it’s a great place to grab a snack after shopping.
You can sample all kinds of Korean street food here and also shop for Hanbok and vintage clothing. This is a popular destination for foreigners because it’s a great example of a Korean traditional market and the atmosphere really gives off a local flavor, and I mean that literally.
If you really want to get your fill, check out Mukja Golmok, a famous street food alley with so many types of delicious Korea food. The prices are low and it’s just so much fun testing all the goodies with your family and friends.
- Purchase food at places that show prices on the menu or have price tags.
- Don’t finish your meal in one place. Try snacking at least two different places or more. That’s the best part of this tour!
- You’ll see a few places with a lot of people standing in long lines. They are obviously good places to try, but that doesn’t mean they are the only good places. All the food in the alley is really good, so don’t feel like you always have to wait in line.
Things to know
- Address: Line 1 Jongro 5ga station exit 8, Naver Map
- Food Market (1F): 9 a.m. – 11 p.m. (Every day)
- Hanbok Market (1F-2F): 9 a.m. – 6 p.m. (Mon-Sat)
- Vintage Shops (2F): 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. (Mon-Sun)
Mukja Golmok(먹자골목) is a Korean phrase that literally means “Let’s Eat Alley”.
• Mukja (먹자): Let’s eat
• Golmok (골목): alley
Dongdaemun Toy and Stationery Street, Toy street a kids’ paradise
If you love toys or have some youngsters running around the house, you’ll really want visit Dongdaemun Toy and Stationery Street.
You’ll see the most toys you’ve ever seen in your life. And, most importantly, you’ll be able to buy them at unbelievably low prices! It is really the perfect place to buy gifts for the holidays.
I love wandering this street because it reminds me of my childhood. During the Christmas season as a child, I desperately prayed to get the gifts I wanted.
“Jesus, Buddha, Allah, whoever listens to me, please tell Santa to give me a princess play set or kitchen play toys,” I pleaded. “I’ve been a good kid!”
At the time, Korea was in the midst of a big financial crisis, which brought economic woes to my country. My family suffered through some tough times, just like most Koreans did. Because of that, I could never tell my parents to buy me such big toys, so I secretly prayed to all the gods I knew every night before Christmas. Looking back, it is a funny and sad memory.
Dongdaemun Toy and Stationery Street literally brings me back to that age. I feel so happy, and I just want to buy all the toys I sought as a child.
This special street will bring a lot of excitement to not only children but also grown-ups. For your children, it will be the ultimate toy hunt. For you, it will remind you of some special childhood memories.
Make a pact with your children
If you plan to bring your children shopping, I recommend making a deal with them on how many toys they can get or how much money can be spent. Everywhere on this street, you will see excited children urging their parents to get more toys and dragging them from store to store. That will be you and your child. I guarantee it. So, make a pact with them before you hit the street.
More than stationery!
In Korea, stationery shops not only sell basic stationery, but also accessories, kitchen appliances, home decorations, toys and much more.
Types of toys: There are tons of cute, fun toys, including figures of movie heroes and famous animation characters, Legos, Korean dolls, costumes, and so many more.
Souvenirs: Each shop has some Korean-style items that can be good souvenirs: traditional fans, soju glasses, key rings, pens, steel spoons and chopsticks sets, stationery and more.
Things to know
Address: 21-1, Jongro 52 gil, Jongro-gu, Seoul (Line 1,6 Dongmyo Station Exit 6), NAVER
Hours: 9 a.m. – 6 p.m. (Every day)
In a recent Speaking Korean, I introduced you to numbers. If you are going to go shopping and use won, then you better know your Korean numbers. So, I wanted to give you a little quiz to test your knowledge. Don’t worry, we’ll do a short review first, and the answers will be on the bottom of the page. Try not to cheat!
Korean numbers (sino) review
1: Il (일) 2: I (이) 3: Sam (삼) 4: Sa (사) 5: Oh (오)
6: Yuk (육) 7: Chil (칠) 8: Pal (팔) 9: Gu (구) 10: Sip (십)
100: Baek (백) 1,000: Cheon (천) 10,000: Man (만)
Let’s practice how to count from 1 to 9,999
*You don’t have to say il (one) on numbers less than 100,000 (sip man)
• 1,000: Cheon
• 5,100: Oh cheon baek
• 32,500: Sam (3) man (10,000) I (2) cheon (1,000) oh (5) baek (100)
• 76,400: Chil (7) man (10,000) yuk (6) cheon (1,000) sa (4) baek (100)
• 99,999: Gu (9) man (10,000) gu (9) cheon (1,000) gu (9) baek (100) gu (9) sip (10) gu (9)
In the popular Seungjin Stationery Shop, which is loaded with cool toys, souvenirs and stationery, the price is not marked on the items. If you want to check the price, you’ll need to scan the barcode.
How much is it?: Eolmayeyo? (얼마예요?)
Take a look at the prices for the merchandise below. Write down how you say it in Korean or say it out loud, then take a look at the answers below to see if you got it right.
1. Tony Tony Chopper: 21,000 won
2. Princess Tiara: 7,000 won
3. Korean Hanok Lego: 36,000 won
4. Dragon Ball: 86,000 won
5. Traditional Korean Fan: 15,000 won
Answers: 1. I man cheon won; 2. Chil cheon won; 3. Sam man yuk cheon won; 4. Pal man yuk cheon won; 5. Man oh cheon won
Tips for shopping at wholesale markets
I’ve been to a lot of wholesale markets in Korea. And, even for a local like me, it can be intimidating. So, here are some pointers that should help you find the perfect item at a perfect price. And remember, this should be fun!
- Take time to look around and compare prices from at least 2-3 different places. You’ll be surprised at the difference in prices between venders.
- Most stores/venders don’t have changing rooms, so make sure you really look over the clothing. (Note: You can quickly try something on over your shirt or short pants.)
- Business hours vary from store to store depending on the vendor’s plans and the weather.
- Try to visit the market way before closing time. A lot of stores start closing 2-3 hours earlier than the regular closing time.
- There are imitation products, so be cautious!
- Don’t take it personally when some vendors behave aggressively. They act the same whether you’re a foreigner or Korean. Some yell at people trying to take a picture of their products, while others only welcome retail vendors or shoppers buying items in bulk. Just shrug it off and move on.
How to haggle
At wholesale markets, a lot of products are sold at incredibly low prices. And on top of that, haggling is a part of the wholesale and traditional market culture. So, if you do it right, you can bring the prices even lower. Even if you don’t, it’s still a lot of fun! Here are some situations that are ideal for haggling!
1. When a vendor tries to get your attention before you enter their store or attempts to sell you specific items, they more than likely are offering it to you at a “foreigner price.” In such cases, don’t hesitate to haggle. Show them you aren’t an easy person to rip off!
2. While looking around a few stores, you’ll get a rough idea of pricing on specific products. If you think a vendor offers a higher price than others, try to haggle.
3. When you buy multiple items, especially in bulk from one store, it’s a perfect time to haggle.
Nampyeonghwa Market - Photos by NPM
Speakin' Korean, Eolmayeyo?
1. Sentence (formal & conversational)
*Using “yo” makes a sentence formal.
*Using “an” in front of verb and adjective makes a negative sentence.
“How much is it?”= Eolmayeyo? (얼마예요?)
“Please give to me / I’ll take it”= Juseyo (주세요)
“Please do it for me”= Hae-juseyo (해주세요)
“Please give me a discount”= Kkakka-juseyo (깎아주세요)
“I’ll buy it” = Salgeyo (살게요)
“I won’t buy it” = An-salgeyo (안 살게요)
“Can I try on? (Only for clothes)” = Ib-eo bwado dweyo? (입어봐도 돼요?)
“Can I try on? (Only for shoes)” = Sinuh bwado dweyo? (신어봐도 돼요?)
• Igeo (이거) = This
• Jeogeo (저거) = That
• Gachi (같이) = Together
• Jogeum (조금) = A little bit
• Rang (랑) = And, with (or as with)
• Man (만) = Only
The name of many old wholesale markets is “Pyeonghwa.” It’s because they were built right after the Korean War. It shows how much South Koreans wished for the peaceful reunification of the peninsula at that time.
• Pyeonghwa (평화): Peace
• Tongil (통일): Reunification
Follow my lead
Don’t be afraid, it’ll be fun speaking Korean while shopping & haggling!
If you ask politely, the chance of getting a discount will increase. Say “Jogeum-man” to make a sentence more polite.
“Can I get a little discount.”
= Jogeum-man kkakka juseyo (조금만 깎아주세요)
If “kkakka” is hard to say, using the English word “discount” with “hae-juseyo” will work.
Jogeum-man discount hae-juseyo (조금만 디스카운트 해주세요)
(Left) Shopping Complex - photo by Korea Tourism Organization, (Right) Dongpyeonghwa Fashion Town - photo by Hyemin Lee
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